Local Immigration News
Howard County Councilman Opel Jones has introduced a bill (CB63-2020) that would limit the involvement of Howard County employees in enforcing federal immigration laws. The County Council will take testimony on the bill Monday, November 16, at 7 pm. Here’s the text of the bill.
To offer testimony on this bill, you must sign up no later than 7 pm, November 15. Here’s the link: https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/otestimony/
Testimony To Be Delivered by Laurie Liskin, co-facilitator of the IndivisibleHoCo Immigration Team
Thank you all for this opportunity to testify tonight. My name is Laurie Liskin. I have lived in District 1 for more than 20 years.
I want to thank Dr. Jones for sponsoring CB 63. This bill provides much needed and long overdue protection for foreign-born residents in Howard County. They should not have to face obstacles to access county services nor live in fear that county employees will send their information to ICE.
CB 63 brings Howard County in line with many other municipalities in Maryland, in surrounding regions, and throughout the country.
I support CB 63 only with the following amendment. The bill needs to specifically prohibit employees and contractors at the Howard County Detention Center from providing any information about detainees to ICE, apart from important medical concerns. Immigrants in jail for civil offenses deserve the same protection as immigrants in the community.
While outreach may not be the responsibility of the legislation, it is the responsibility of the council and the county to publicize this bill widely in the community and among county employees. A bill that no one knows about has no value.
I will end by quoting a sentence from CB 63: “Howard County has a strong tradition of leadership on issues of human rights, respecting the rights of and providing equal services to all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, or immigration status.” But new information about horrific abuses in the Howard County Detention Center, makes a mockery of this claim. We cannot pass the Liberty Bill and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done as long as there are immigrants in our own detention center who are being strip-searched for going to chapel.
The Howard County Council and the County Executive need to protect all immigrants in Howard County. We cannot call ourselves leaders on human rights while county staff sanction these abuses and elected officials refuse to publicly condemn them. </B
On Oct. 7, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball vetoed County Bill 51-2020, which would have ended the county’s contract with ICE to detain immigrants at the Howard County Detention Center.
Mr. Ball justified his veto, in part, because of the presumed quality of the center: If the goal is to ensure that all ICE detainees are treated humanely and with dignity in the Trump administration era, we should want them housed at the Howard County Detention Center.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ball’s rosy assessment of conditions at the center are dead wrong, according to a recent investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, based on an unannounced visit to the facility. The report “identified violations of ICE detention standards that threatened the health, safety and rights of detainees. Although [the center] generally complied with ICE detention standards regarding communication, it did not meet the standards for detainee searches, food service and record requirements for segregation and medical grievances. We determined [the center] excessively strip-searched ICE detainees leaving their housing unit to attend activities within the facility, in violation of ICE detention standards and the facility’s own search policy.”
Investigators found that detainees, even “low-custody” detainees, were routinely forced to undergo strip searches (i.e body cavity searches) after visiting chapel or meeting with their lawyers within the jail facility.
The Department of Homeland Security was so disturbed by conditions in the detention center that a “detention services manager” was recommended for the facility to ensure compliance with federal detention standards.
Clearly immigrants in the Howard County Detention Center are not “treated humanely and with dignity” as Mr. Ball claims. It is time for Howard County to stop making $2 million per year from the ICE contract and stop this appalling treatment of human beings.
Calvin Ball, rescind your veto of CB 51-2020.